Dolphins vs. Steelers: Key is on the edge

Joel Auerbach

Dominant defensive ends in Miami put pressure on a banged-up Steelers offensive line. A large part of Pittsburgh success or failure will depend on their ability to keep Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake at bay.

As if the Steelers needed a bigger challenge Sunday than the possibility of being down three starting offensive linemen.

Here come the sack-happy Dolphins.

Miami has something of a similar problem on their hands in terms of having productive pass rushers, like the Steelers theoretically have with Jason Worilds and LaMarr Woodley. Except, Cameron Wake rushes off the offensive left edge with a high rate of proficiency, and Olivier Vernon does the same coming off the right.

Vernon is among NFL leaders with 10.5 sacks, and Wake adds 6.5, plus a career of 49.5 total sacks, making him one of the most dominant pass rushers over the last few seasons. The Steelers face Miami down center Fernando Velasco, but possibly down left tackle Kelvin Beachum as well. Right guard David DeCastro is questionable with a foot injury, bringing scores of back-ups into starting roles.

Right tackle Marcus Gilbert appears to be set for his showdown with Vernon, but whomever the Steelers will put at left tackle against Wake could be the difference in winning or losing this game - a game that has huge playoff implications. Mike Adams was able to practice Wednesday, and the decision will be between Adams - the deposed starter from Weeks 1-4 - and Guy Whimper - the deposed lineman from last season.

Whimper filled in reasonably well at right tackle earlier this year when Gilbert was out, but left tackle isn't exactly his strength. It doesn't seem left tackle is Adams' strength either, but for a team that's managed to make its offensive line's pass protection a strength over the last few weeks, it's the kind of set-back that can have a profoundly negative impact on the progress of a team that was just starting to hit its stride.

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